Saffron is a spice derived from the dried stigma of the flower of the saffron crocus (Crocus sativus), a species of crocus in the family Iridaceae.
A good rule of thumb is to use about 2-3 threads per serving when making a dish for one person — so for a dish that serves 6, you’ll want to use about 15 threads. There are approximately 463 threads per gram of saffron so 1 gram would yield approximately 150 servings – but you usually buy in much smaller quantities because the weight of the stigmas is so light and the spice is expensive. Note in the photo above, there are three stigma per flower – therefore one flower will be needed to supply the characteristics of saffron to the meal of each person. Each stigma is removed by hand. I think you can understand why this spice is expensive; the number of flowers required and the personalised extraction process are extremely land and labour intensive. I paid around $14.50 at my local supermarket for 100milligrams.
Saffron is characterised by a bitter taste and contains a carotenoid dye, crocin, which gives food a rich golden-yellow hue. This spice has a rich history. It dates back to the Sumerians and ancient Iran and later it spread to other countries such as Spain, Italy, Greece, India, Turkey, Thailand, and China. Saffron was used by ancient Persian worshipers as a ritual offering to deities. It was also used as a brilliant yellow dye, a perfume, and a medicine. Thus, saffron threads would be scattered across beds and mixed into hot teas as a curative for bouts of melancholy.
It should not surprise you that I have tried to grow saffron crocus.
In my garden, abandoned through lack of visible action over the past few years, the bulbs of the saffron flower have languished. Originally an expensive plant to buy I had shrugged my shoulders at its failure to respond to my general neglect, and considered this was a plant I couldn’t grow to a stage where it flowered, without providing tender loving care. Without flowers there could be no stigma to harvest so I resigned myself to the occasional purchase of Victorian or Tasmanian grown saffron threads.
But then …
To my surprise …
Very recently …
Beneath the large mildewing leaves of the late self-seeded pumpkin I noticed a blooming saffron crocus flower – just the one. I could see its three vermillion coloured stigma. Within minutes I had snipped these ready to incorporate into a dish later. In the next photo the fresh stigma are obviously larger than the dried ones in the purchased container.
I noticed that within a short time, the remaining flower hung sadly for the loss of its vital parts.
It is clear to me, when I look at the tall and thin leaf stalks, that the number of bulbs has proliferated over time. Perhaps a little more care and vigilance on my part next year will bring on a bigger crop. During the wait until next year I will have time to perfect the volume of soaking water and the timing of adding the saffron to a dish to obtain the most richest of yellow colours. If any reader has experience with cooking with saffron I will welcome your tips.
I hope your plants proliferate! I haven’t used saffron in cooking for many years now, mainly because of its cost: I tend to use turmeric for a yellow/orange colour, and it’s a lot cheaper! Cheers, Jon.
All these things are experiments, based on my endless curiosity. I use turmeric regularly because I like the spice combinations of various Indian cooking. I have only used fresh turmeric once (tried to grow it unsuccessfully as well) and didnt like the fiddly cleaning of the tiny tubers.
LikeLiked by 1 person